Hot Air Ballooning UAE
Hot Air Ballooning and Balloon tourist trips and adventures in Abu Dhabi Al Ain Dubai UAE. Information, guide, and list of companies.
- A balloon adventure costs about AED 1000 per person and lasts about 4-5 hours total with about 1 hour air time (except for the Ibn Battuta Mall ride).
- Balloon flights depart early in the morning (pre-dawn) to catch the sunrise ... hopefully.
- Operating months are usually September to May but the months of September and May will probably be uncomfortably hot for most people.
- Bring warm clothes in the winter months (December, January). It is not unusual for the temperature before sunrise to get as low as 10° Celcius in the desert, sometimes even cooler.
- Hot air ballooning is not a risk-free activity. If there's a noticeable breeze during the evening before your flight, consider rescheduling your trip. Most mornings in the UAE are relatively calm, as are most evenings after the sun sets. A windy evening often means the next morning is also windy. A windy morning could mean a bumpy landing, or worse as it turned out for some travellers in April 2010 (see below).
Hot Air Balloon companies in the UAE
Most websites that turn up in searches of hot air balloon flights in the UAE are likely to be booking agents for one of the companies listed below.
- Amigos Balloons, based in Dubai, tel +971-4-2899295, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website says "We are the original founders of hot air ballooning in Dubai, UAE and the Gulf." Flights operate from near Dubai and other locations.
- Balloon Adventures Emirates (BAE), based in Dubai, tel +971-4-2854949, email email@example.com. Flights operate from near Al Ain but they do Dubai pickups.
- [Not operating] Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall - a very junior hot air balloon ride in the car park near the Dubai Geant Hypermarket. Balloon is tied to the Earth with a rope so you won't drift away (or very high). Operates most of the year, most of the time when the mall is open.
Hot Air Balloon accident in Al Ain - 25 April 2010
- A balloon belonging to Balloon Adventures Emirates piloted by Piotr Gorny, crash-landed in the desert near Al Ain in high winds, killing two of the passengers and putting one of the crew in hospital in intensive care. The ballon had a total of 14 passengers and crew. Initial reports said the other passengers all suffered minor injuries, and a later report said 11 of the passengers suffered "moderate to critical injuries." The final GCAA report said two died, one was severely injured, and one other crew member had minor injuries. Some reports in 2012 said the severely injured crew member was paralysed and died a year later from his injuries [Reference needed].
- The two passengers died after leaving the balloon basket, with mixed reports about how they left. Initial reports said they were thrown out by the force of the impact because they were not able to hold on to a safety rope, another later report said "Two passengers exited the basket after touch down in spite of being thoroughly briefed not to do so." [Ref Emirates 24-7, 28 Feb 2013]. The GCAA final incident report from Aug 2010 said they were "displaced from the balloon basket." One of the survivors said about the landing in a report in The National on 25 Aug 2010 that "We were bouncing around inside the basket with only our grips on the handholds keeping us inside."
- The director of the UAE company, Peter Kollar, was previously running hot air balloon companies in New Zealand (Up, Up and Away (MacKenzie) Ltd, and Balloon Adventures, Up Up and Away Ltd), one of which operated a balloon that crash-landed in 1995, resulting in the deaths of three tourists.
- According to a report in The National on 26 April 2010, he claimed "he was the victim of a "vendetta" by New Zealand aviation authorities". The same report also said that he was "twice convicted of breaching safety standards" in New Zealand following the 1995 accident, and his NZ company (Up Up And Away?) was "the subject of 15 official complaints over a 12-year period to 2003,"
- Apparently those incidents in NZ were not relevant to Mr Kollar's operation in the UAE - the same report said "Mr Kollar said that he had never denied or hidden his New Zealand flying history and did not believe it was pertinent to the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority's decision to authorise the company to operate commercial balloon flights or to give him a UAE commercial pilot's licence."
- A later report, also in The National (20 Dec 2012), clarified that ... GCAA said it had issued him a licence to fly in the UAE as there were no guidelines that "require a state to ban an operator based on his previous history", but that section was later removed from the report (unknown why).
- The pilot of the balloon was initially sentenced in the Al Ain Criminal Court to one year in jail and a AED 20,000 fine. The jail sentence was dismissed by the Al Ain Appeals Court in July 2010 after the GCAA released a preliminary accident report, and the judge concluded that "the death of the two passengers was accidental as the balloon crashed due to bad weather". However the appeals court upheld the verdict that the balloon captain must pay a fine of AED 20,000, and blood money or Diya of AED 400,000 as compensation - AED 200,000 to each victim's family (ref Khaleej Times 12 Jul 2010).
- After the crash, company operations were suspended while the UAE GCAA investigated the incident. A Khaleej Times report 06 Jul 2010 quoted the GCAA Director General, Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, as saying the investigation team "... has submitted its interim report and based on that, we have suspended the company’s licence. Now, we have to get the final report before taking a decision on the total termination or revival of its licence."
- The company resumed operations after the final GCAA report was issued on 03 August 2010.
- The GCAA also recommended changes in operational directives as a result of the crash to improve safety for balloon flights in the UAE [Ref: GCAA Operational Directive 01/2010 issued 14 June 2010].
Ref (GCAA Final Report): https://www.gcaa.gov.ae/en/ePublication/admin/iradmin/Lists/Incidents Investigation Reports/Attachments/8/2010-Final Report Cameron Balloon Z-425-LW A6-JBR - Report 04 2010.pdf.
Last update Sunday 08-Mar-2015. Page development 4L 5C.